Competition Eliminator 4/24/09
     The 54th season of the Humboldt-Del Norte Timing Association kicked off Sunday the 24th, and as several drivers were reaching personal best elapsed times, you had to keep in mind the strong headwinds. The winds never let up all day, and the competition only got more interesting.
In a growing field of dragsters, Jake Morris' first rail job - an '06 Eurya with a "starter motor" unblown 454 - ran second-lowest passes of the day for cars, 8.95 being his best. He first drove it Test N Tune weekend (April 4th & 5th)) with a pair of 9.19s, ran 9-flat at Kool April Drags on the 18th.
Rick Ellsworth, Jr's dragster was top qualifier with a Session 2 pass of 8.33 at 156 mph. For several, their season opener happened elsewhere and earlier. Slant 6 Dodge freak Andrew Howard took second place in his class at Mopars at the Strip in Las Vegas, weekend of March 21st with his rebuilt gasser-style '62 Valiant.
Kool April Drags in Redding got things rolling, in part, for:
-- Kyle Skillings, who took 3rd in West Coast Top Sportsman with a personal record 7.66 through 92 degree heat in his stretched '94 Berretta.
-- Bill Wood, who took his '69 Camaro to the Electronics final past midnight with a winning pass of 9.11 @ 148 mph, then took 3rd the next day.
-- Ray Rapp, who took 3rd that Sunday, in Non-Electronics, aided by consecutive 10.19s, one of them with a .001 reaction time.
     Rapp left last season as Samoa Dragstrip's first driver to take championships in both Super Pro and Pro, and began his hometrack season with crew chief Ron Macklin solidly.  He lept the '72 Vega off the line with the best reaction times - an .003 in Session 1, and .002 in the Semi Finals, running extremely close to his dial-ins, avoiding breakouts in both classes (a 10.129 in Pro quarter finals against Sam Ivey's Mustang, 10.132 in Super Pro eliminations).It led his Vega to the Super Pro final against the top qualifier, where Ellsworth ran an 8.34, but red-lit at the starting line. Rapp had the first green light, running 10.13 on a 10.14 dial-in. Rapp faced Ana Toledo for a 1st place win in the Pro final. Noteworth is Toledo starting her second year in Pro noticeably faster in her '69 Mustang.
     Ron Gulbransen, after years of heading the Sportsman pack with his '68 Mustang California Special has entered Pro running personal best e.t.'s. In Test n Tune he ran a 12.54, and started the season opener time trials with an 11.98 pass.
The Sportsman final featured veteran Glen Terry and his Slant 6-powered '65 Dodge Dart take on rookie Max Jeffers' '03 Lance Evolution. Jeffers, more accustomed to the heads up Budweiser Racing Street Legals Series, ran a better e.t. of 14.96 to the Killer Bees Racing's 15.86, but Terry had a much better reaction time, aiding him to 1st place. Still, Jeffers had fun returning to the tower as runner-up.
     Now a licensed NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle pilot, James Surber's Harley Davidson drag bike sliced the quickest run amongst bikers, 8.37 in time trials. Wayne Cox had second-quickest et. in trials, 8.77 with his '97 Kawasaki drag bike, John Widdman helping wrench the bike to the final, Cox racing Thomas Wilhem. Wilhelm, his second year on snowmobiles, brokeout with a 10-flat run on a 12.98 dial-in, as Cox ran 8.76 on his 8.75 dial-in at 129 mph.
     Each year we see at least one Junior Dragster pilot graduate to faster brackets. Last year graduate Robbie Waddell even went from Sportsman to Pro. Mike Pettit, Jr. returned this year in Sportsman Motorcycles, racing sister Kara - her 2nd year in motorcycles, now a high school grad and recent mother - on Skidoo snowmobiles. He sled into the semi's against Wilhelm, who would advance.
     Speaking of Junior Dragsters, the Pro Pacific Junior Dragster Series opened with a big field of young pilots. 2nd-year driver Mikey Pires, Jr. took the Consolation win over Melissa Surber, before Kevin Will took an 8.78 win in the eighth-mile over Austin Petersen's 9.32. Petersen's arm took the toll of a knarly bike accident days prior, though the arm sling didn't keep him from the cockpit.
     Needless to say, Season 54 started off excitingly, continuing on May 10th with the Bob Olmstead Memorial Race.  Don't forget- the night prior to points races are full of action with the Budweiser Racing Street Legal Series at 5:30pm, free entry and admission (but if you still want to sneak friends in the trunk, well that's just weird...). The previous night saw about 150 entries, several showing up with the backseats already out. It's getting to be a serious venue for keeping racing on the strip and off the street.
So: further into Season 54, at the historic Samoa Dragstrip. See ya at the Bob Olmstead Memorial Race, May 10.
-- Tim O'Brien
Track Announcer